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Cablegate: Combating Extremism: Street-Level Competition In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 007792

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR R, P, AND NEA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2015
TAGS: PREL KDEM KPAO EAID PHUM KMPI PTER
SUBJECT: COMBATING EXTREMISM: STREET-LEVEL COMPETITION IN
THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS

REF: STATE 159129

1. SUMMARY: The USG, GOE, and a wide range of non-
governmental organizations in Egypt are vigorously engaged
in efforts to combat extremism. In response to reftel
request, this message describes efforts in Egypt to reduce
the sources of extremism, counter extremism in the media,
create a political and social space for competing
ideas, and promote religious tolerance and lawful
resolution of conflict. END SUMMARY.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. Extremism in Egypt is a product in part of domestic
political, economic, and social systemic shortcomings, as
well as historic opposition to USG foreign policy in the
region. Although extremism has tended to arise from
disadvantaged areas of the Sinai, Upper Egypt and the slums
of the larger cities, it has also affected middle and
upper-class youth. Extremism has expressed itself most
dramatically in attacks that killed tourists as well as
Egyptians in Taba, Sharm el Sheikh and Islamic Cairo and
were clearly intended to strike at the existing regime by
crippling the tourism industry. Though most Egyptians
vehemently reject the indiscriminate killing, extremist
ideologies have taken root among significant segments of
disaffected youth.

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---------------------------------------
PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAMS AIMED AT YOUTH
---------------------------------------

3. In recent years the Mission has shaped its Public
Affairs activities to target a younger, broader audience of
non-elites, taking our message to the streets and
universities and out of Cairo in order to combat extremism
and promote other mission objectives.

4. In December Al-Azhar University, one of Islam's most
influential learning centers, will host Imam Bashar Arafat
of Baltimore for discussions with students and scholars.
This is the first Embassy-sponsored speaker in recent
memory to deal directly with religious extremism. The
program grew out of contacts nurtured by the Regional
English Teaching Office (RELO), which supported Al-Azhar's
English teaching program. The Mission will lay the
groundwork for Imam Bashar and other activities aimed at
Islamic opinion leaders through iftars and other Ramadan
events.

5. From the Ambassador to junior officers, the Mission
engages in frequent contact with groups of students, young
professionals and journalists through public speaking and
informal contact aimed at highlighting the benefits of our
binational partnership for ordinary Egyptians.

6. Featuring book-discussions and DVC's with U.S. authors,
the post's Arabic book translation raises awareness and
promotes tolerance among youth by exposing them to young-
adult literature as well as economic and political non-
fiction. Among the titles this year are "Politics and
Religion in the United States" and Fareed Zakaria's "The
Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad".

7. A few steps away from Alexandria University, the
American Center in Alexandria and our Cairo Information
Resource Center counter extremism through youth outreach,
offering Internet workshops and free Internet to the
library patrons and conducting monthly school visits. The
Alexandria center hosts an active Voice of America club,
which includes several hundred students and young
professionals; it also offers student counseling and
English instruction conducted by the NGO Amideast.

8. Key to the anti-extremist effort is the Mission's
Information Office in the Public Affairs Section, which
ensures that the message of official USG spokespersons is
made clear in the Egyptian media. Cairo remains an
information hub for the Arab world, serving as the home
base for many regional correspondents. The Public Affairs
section regularly works with them to counter extremist
information.

9. Monitoring hate-speech and incitement are likewise
primary missions of the Information Office. The Embassy
demarches the GOE and contacts chief editors to raise our
concerns about hate speech in the Egyptian media whenever
warranted.

10. The Mission also supports efforts by Egyptian NGOs to
counter extremism through a civil society grant program.
In FY05, we issued $1 million in 632(a) funds from USAID to
Egyptian civil society organizations such as the Ibn
Khaldun Center the Center and the Coptic Evangelical
Organization for Social Services, which support community
self-help and civic awareness.

---------
EXCHANGES
---------
11. Exchange visits to the U.S. are among our most
important tools in the fight against extremism. They
provide first-hand exposure to the tolerance and
hospitality of American society, countering the myth that
Americans are anti-Islam. In FY05 the exchanges unit
assisted 414 visitors on USG-sponsored programs, including
Fulbright scholarships, the International Visitor
Leadership Program (IVLP), Citizens' Exchanges, and
Partnership for Youth Learning. A growing pool of exchange
alumni participates in follow-on activities such as the
Model U.S. Congress at Cairo University. Recently a group
of exchange alumni met with Undersecretary Karen Hughes,
providing frank feedback on our public diplomacy in the
Muslim world on her first trip as Undersecretary.

12. Equally valuable are visits to Egypt by Americans,
especially youth, who not only represent our values and
diversity and put a human face on America, but also
demonstrate our desire to engage with Arabs and Muslims.
Living with Egyptians and attending universities and
schools, they have a great multiplier effect. These
ordinary American citizens, many of whom are studying
Arabic, deflate the myths about American violence and
arrogance conveyed by the action films and a hostile news
media.

13. Of special importance are Egyptian religious figures
like the GOE-funded Islamic scholars from Al-Azhar whom the
Consular Section and Public Affairs helped visit the U.S.
during Ramadan to carry out interfaith dialogue and meet
with American Muslim communities. This year the Public
Affairs section will arrange programs with the imams after
their return.

----------------
USAID ACTIVITIES
----------------

14. By their very nature most USAID activities in Egypt
help counter extremism by providing youth with hope for the
future via education, jobs, a sound infrastructure and
opportunities for democratic participation. Certain
projects aim specifically at populations vulnerable to
extremist influence.

15. For example, a $273,000 grant to the Tur Sinai
Investors Association provides economic opportunities for
Bedouins and migrants to South Sinai -?the scene of the
Sharm el Sheikh and Taba terrorist bombings in 2004 and
2005. Similar support for community organizations
encourages the development of leadership skills,
constituency relations and human rights awareness among
marginalized groups in poor districts of Cairo and regional
towns like Minya and Beni Sweif.

16. USAID?s 5-year, $14.4 million Professional Media
Development Program will assist print, television, radio,
and other electronic media to present a more balanced
picture of regional and national affairs, countering the
sensationalist news presentation that panders to religious
prejudices and chauvinism.

17. To address the widespread unemployment among Egyptian
youth, one of the chief economic factors behind extremism,
USAID's assistance strategy for 2004-2009 includes
significant support for small and micro enterprises, which
employ 60 percent of the Egyptian labor force. USAID has
been the largest financer of microfinance initiatives in
Egypt since 1990, supporting more than 70 percent of
activities in this sector and providing about $530 million
to more than 600,000 small and micro enterprises.

18. Likewise, the establishment of Qualifying Industrial
Zones and negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement will
create thousands of jobs, creating hope for the future and
taking the edge off of the despair that haunts so many
Egyptian youths and drives some of them to violence.

-----------------------------------
GOE ACTIVITIES TO COUNTER EXTREMISM
-----------------------------------
19. Through the Ministry of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) and
other government bodies, the GOE regulates and monitors the
practice of Islam in Egypt with the aim of identifying and
isolating propagators of extremism in mosques and
theological institutions. Spiritual leaders appointed by
the GOE, including the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the Mufti of the
Republic, and the President of Al-Azhar University, speak
out frequently against extremist deviations from Islam.
Their credentials as Islamic scholars underscore their
credibility throughout the Islamic world.

20. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks, these scholars
redoubled efforts through the media, lectures, and other
fora, to affirm Islam's commitment to peace and tolerance
and debunk extremist theologians. The clerics' efforts are
supplemented by a broad spectrum of commentators in both
the state-controlled and independent broadcast and print
media, who lay out detailed cases against extremist
ideology and violent acts.

------------------------------------
COUNTERING EXTREMISM: BEST PRACTICES
------------------------------------

21. There is no silver bullet for extremism spawned by
complex historical and social factors. But the approaches
mentioned above have had an impact by stressing the true
message of peace and tolerance in Islam, by debunking the
myth of an arrogant, anti-Islamic America, and by providing
hope to youth who face a dead-end in their careers and
personal lives.

RICCIARDONE

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